Watch David Gilmour, Lemmy, Mark Knopfler and Gary Moore in a bizarre comedy sketch

Guitarists on the French & Saunders show
(Image credit: BBC)

Say whatever you like about the BBC, but it has clout. When the broadcaster put together an all-star cover version of Lou Reed's Perfect Day in 1997 – essentially to promote its own music coverage – it was able to call on a veritable A-list of music giants to take part, from Bono and David Bowie to Tammy Wynette, Tom Jones, Elton John and Dr. John. It's the kind of thing only the BBC can do.

It was ever thus. And anyone flipping channels at 9pm on April 19 1990 and settling on BBC2 was given a prime example. 

It's the sixth episode of the third series of French And Saunders, the comedy sketch show starring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. The first people we see are comedians Simon Brint and Rowland Rivron, known to UK comedy fans as the musical duo Raw Sex. Brint is attempting to learn guitar using Ralph McTell's 100 Easy Guitar Tunes, a (made-up) instruction manual from the (real-life) folk musician Ralph McTell. And he's struggling. 

Most of the sketch is a dream sequence, imagining a court case that finds McTell in the dock, charged with publishing a teaching aid that isn't actually easy at all, because it doesn't include "diagrams with dots that tell you where to put your fingers on the guitar fretboard."

Witnesses for the prosecution include Dire Straits man Mark Knopfler, Motorhead's Lemmy, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Level 42 bassist Mark King, and Gary Moore. Each musician steps forward to plays to play one of their own classics. Then, when asked to repeat the performance using McTell's instructions, they fail miserably. It all ends with an ensemble version of Johnny B. Goode, and if the sketch is evidence of anything at all, it's that musicians have better comic timing than you might expect. 

In Lemmy's case it might actually be expected, as by 1990 he was a veteran at this kind of thing. The same year he appeared as Rico in The Comic Strip's Falklands War satire South Atlantic Raiders – a show that also featured a brief cameo from Jeff Beck – and in 1987 he played the part of Spider in the black comedy Eat The Rich

Of course, Motorhead themselves had made an iconic appearance on the Bambi episode of The Young Ones back in 1984. But that's for another time. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.